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Utah Utes Sugar Bowl prep is under way

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Things are getting kind of sweet up on the hill. Preparations for the 75th anniversary Sugar Bowl pitting the Utes and Alabama are progressing.

The Bowl Championship Series clash is slated for Jan. 2 at the Louisiana Superdome.

A group of Utah officials (associate athletic director Pete Oliszczak, events coordinator Steve Pyne, assistant athletic director for ticketing Zack Lassiter, director of football operations Jeff Rudy and administrative assistant Mark Andersen) have traveled to New Orleans to make a site visit, a bowl tradition where logistical issues such as familiarity with the team hotel, practice facilities and other matters are examined.

Meanwhile, back in Salt Lake City, the Utes are preparing to resume practice today — even though a couple of the coaches will still be out on the road recruiting.

"It'll be nice to get a head start and get ready to go, finally start preparing for an opponent," said quarterback Brian Johnson, who began looking at Alabama film on Sunday. "So it's something that we are looking forward to."

The Utes will also take the field on Friday and Saturday before taking a couple of days off for finals week.

"It's the same everywhere around the country. It's something you have to deal with. Everybody has to take finals," Johnson said.

"Coach Whit does a great job of scheduling things around people's finals, making sure that anybody who has a conflict that they take care of academics first."

As far as the Sugar Bowl is concerned, Utah is still getting settled in.

"It really hasn't sunk in yet," Johnson said. "As far as preparation, I'm going to prepare like any other week. The thing I'm excited about is that we get so much time to prepare for this game.

"So we have the chance to put everything we have into it and hopefully it'll pay off on game day."

EXTRA POINTS: Former Utah quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen, who is Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Florida, is reportedly going to be named head coach at Mississippi State today. ... ESPN.com took a closer look at the season-ending USA Today's Coaches Poll and noted that Whittingham, Meyer and Wyoming's Joe Glenn all picked the Utes fifth. Missouri's Gary Pinkel was the only coach to pick the them worse than ninth. He had Utah 15th on his ballot. ... Louie Sakoda is in Orlando tonight for the ESPN college football show. He's a finalist for the Lou Groza (kicker) and Ray Guy (punter) awards.

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com